By the time BOS Chairman Bruce Gibson was finished listening to the appellant and general public input at the permit hearing for the Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project, I was struck by how quickly he turned into Chairperson Sarah Christie of the Planning Commission.
After reading the staff report and proposal, Christie must have rolled her eyes something fierce and muttered, Oh really, after spending all those millions of Los Osians’ nice assessment money, this sucky spray fields idea is the best they could come up with? And then took the county staff, their sucky proposal and “her” board by the scruff of the neck and frog marched them straight into the new! improved! strong water conservation, ag exchange, water-in-basin, Giacomazzi property plan. And if any of her Commissioners snorted and skittered about looking like they might jump their traces, a quick snap of the snaffle bit –chink! chink!—and she had them quickly settled down and pulling the project wagon exactly where she intended to take it. It was beautiful to see.
And now here was Gibson, prepared outline (and reins) in hand, heading his fellow Sups swiftly along the path he intended them to take. And if there was any whinny or wither-shivvering -- ka-chink! ka-chink! – Gibson would snap that snaffle bit and they’d settle back in line.
‘splaining a blue streak for the audience, his fellow board members and by that hour of the evening, the record, Gibson firmly guided discussion. Gravity? Check! No, no problems with Broderson, the planning commission’s thinking on that’s just fine. Mitigation? Not a problems? The EIR’s got it all covered. No worries. Giacomazzi? Check! Treatment system as written? Check! Sludge? No problem. Salt water intrusion? We’re on it! The Planning Commission’s plan has nailed it just fine. The annoying, nit-picking appellants we’ve had to listed to all day have had their say. Nothing to see there, move along, move along. Our staff tells us we’ve got all bases covered splendidly! See, it’s all right here in their EIR. Time to get cracking.
Appeals denied 5-0. Project permit approved! Now, on to the Coastal Commission, Yippee-Ki-Yi!
Some random notes along the way:
According to the RWQCB, any “leaks” from the traditional, gravity cap & bell sewer pipes will likely be minimal and is that’s O.K. with them. This from the same people who brought you The Criminal Los Osos 45 who find their criminal septic tank only remains criminal if they still own the property. Once they sell their homes and move away, the septic tank that remains behind and the new owners using it and “discharging” and polluting the groundwater of the state of California, are suddenly transformed into non-criminals, no CDO, no problem. It’s one of those Los Osos “miracles.”
A goodly number of “Dreamers” and TPWers have weirdly gotten themselves stuck in a puzzling delusion. I repeatedly heard them say the project should be moved back to Tri-W because Tri-W is “fully permitted.” Uh, there is no “permit” on Tri-W. The original ginned up SOC was rescinded and the permit was allowed to lapse by all parties, including the Coastal Commission. Were the project to be put on Tri-W, the whole permit process would have to start from scratch and a new SOC would have to be filed saying that there is NO alternative non-ESHA sites available, which clearly isn’t now and never was the case. Somebody should break the news to these folks, but do it gently, please.
Steve Paige had some interesting comments. The property tax State deferral program for seniors is kaput, so any lien put on their homes (sewer assessment) will result in those homes gong immediately ito default, which means they can be seized for non-payment.(since the State’s deferral program is kaput.)
Also, interestingly, septic tanks are property and expensive property at that, all legal and properly permitted by the county and RWQCB. If they’re now “condemned” and shut down without just compensation for their loss and without a proper hearing, that constitutes a government “taking” since there has been no proper hearing and the owners will not be compensated for the loss of a privately owned, legally permitted, expensive device. Basis for a class action lawsuit? According to Steve, yes,
Supervisor Gibson single-handedly took STEP off the table by claiming the county already had Mongomery Watson Harza’s original in-the-ground plans so they’d save $ on the redesign and they could claim they were “shovel ready” for stimulus funds that didn’t pan out. Yet STEP never got put back on the table. So much for the promise to allowing both systems to duke it out through the design-build-bid process.
This becomes interesting in light of Andrew Christie’s (Sierra Club, an appellant) remarks: He told the BOS that the Sierra club would withdraw all their objections and appeals to the Coastal Commission if the BOS would put STEP back on the table and allow it to continue on to the bid process so that the community could finally get real time, real life, real hard numbers. He pointed out that nobody on the staff or Corollo Engineering or the Water Board had any real life experience with STEP so their numbers were, at best, guestimates and the BOS really needed to get testimony and numbers from some real experts in STEP, with real experience with STEP.
That suggestion went nowhere, of course. So the community will never know what the real cost savings with a hard-bid STEP system would have been. But that’s o.k. with the community. While even the staff’s numbers did show STEP as being cheaper, 1/3 of the town didn’t care enough one way or the other to return the Community Survey and the other 1/3 wanted gravity and would stick with gravity unless it could save them more than $30 a month. So, 2/3rds of the community wanted to pay more for their system, so that’s exactly what they’ll get.
The front-loaded $5 million water conservation efforts (retrofit toilets in every home, using the money to reimburse homeowners for the retrofit if they do it within the first year of the project & etc.) got muddled and wandered off the field a bit. The BOS and Paavo started in on their usual mantra about working on a conservation program, which in this county means something will get done, oh, let’s see. . . um. . . never. Planning Commissioner Wyatt came to the podium to try to make the BOS understand that the nexus for that $5 mil was immediate water reduction as part of the reduced flow the sewer system was now designed to handle and it was time sensitive since it was also designed to slow salt water intrusion NOW, not into some vague future. She also wanted to amend the original condition to give it less specificity and allow more flexibility to include commercial establishments & etc. So the Supervisors muddled around with the language and it’s not clear whether the emphasis remains on the up-frontness of the idea. Clearly, all homes must show proof of having high efficiency toilets and retrofit showerheads & etc. before they can hook up to the sewer. But it isn’t clear whether the details of the rebate/financial incentive program will have to come back later for hammering out. So, if there are delays in this project, there’ll be delays in water reduction, which means MORE salt water intrusion, the stopping of which should be the absolute #1 priority.
The most interesting question, of course, is why STEP wasn’t allowed – as promised – to compete head to head with gravity. I mean, it wasn’t as if several systems with hard, real-time bids came back and STEP lost on various counts. It wasn’t allowed to compete in the first place. So, what was the real fear preventing that from happening? After all, if the Process had been allowed to proceed as promised and as it should have proceeded, either STEP would fall away as being too expensive or being environmentally unsound or something. Or it would come in way cheaper and the community or the BOS could then decide to accept or reject it on whatever basis. Or it would be there to “keep gravity” honest, much like the “public option” is being touted as being necessary to keep private health insurance plans “honest.” But it wasn’t allowed on the table to even compete. Why? What was the BOS and county afraid of ? (C’mon, honest answer here, please.)
People holding undeveloped property in the PZ who are under the impression that once the sewer gets built they’ll finally be able to build their dream homes and hook up and live happily ever after are gonna be in for a rude shock. No building, no hook up until the Habitat Conservation Plan, the Estero Bay Plan and the Watershed Basin plan are updated and the water basin is shown to be in balance. When all that happens is not known. Weirdly, people outside the PZ are free to build and use water to their heart’s content, thereby helping to deplete the water while those inside the PZ are SOL, thanks to RWQCB.
The new CAO, Mr. Jim Grant was given the microphone to alert the audience and listening audience of the earthquake in Samoa and to warn of a possible 2-foot tsunami heading for the central coast so nobody should run down to Morro Rock at 9 pm. last night to stand on the rocks to watch.
And, finally, Supervisor Meacham asked Mark Hutchinson why the sewer plant can’t be put back on Tri-W and Mr. Hutchinson said that in today’s world, Tri-W would be $24 million more than the Giacomazzi site, to which someone in the audience said, “Imagine that,” no doubt rolling his eyes as well. $24 million more to build today? I guess “out of town” really is waaaaayyyyy cheaper? Well, well.
Next up, the Coastal Commisison. In their early-on warning-shot-across-the-bow letter, they listed several issues they were “concerned” with. So far, I think their sludge concerns may still be a sticking point. According to Mark Hutchinson, ponds that would eliminate more sludge weren’t recommended due to the specific site size restrictions and Los Osos weather that can be problematic. But we’ll have to see. The Coastal Commissioners may figure two out of three is about the best they’ll get and better than nothing.
And we’ll all have to now set up the betting pool: Who will be the first person/acronym/group to file a lawsuit? Hey, it wouldn’t be The Hideous Los Osos Sewer Project without a lawsuit.
Yippie-ki-yi . . . .